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Beyond Clocking In

Joseph’s story shows how to be God’s ambassador at work—regardless of the environment.

By Patricia Raybon

 

The boss was a fireball—hot-tempered, demanding, and angry . . . on his good days.

On his bad days, he screamed four-letter words and threw trash cans. His employees all walked on eggshells—except for one calm, savvy woman.

“He’s actually afraid,” she told her friends.

So she didn’t lose sleep over her high-strung manager. No egg-walking either. “I know his type. I’ll outlast him.” And she did. When he finally left the company, she still had her sanity—and her job.

But what does the Bible say to believers about bad work environments? In Colossians 3:23*, Paul urged, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” So how can we approach work as worship—even if our supervisor is a poor leader, unethical, or downright cruel, and not the least bit sorry about it?

For godly answers, we can look to Joseph, the favorite first child of Rachel and Jacob. His jealous half-brothers hated him so much that they secretly sold him into slavery. Landing in Egypt, Joseph went on to labor in three very different environments, none of which were run by people serving God. Yet he survived—and thrived—even while working for a weak viceroy (Potiphar), a lazy prison warden, and an anxious Pharaoh. Consider the principles he exemplified, which are all still effective in the workplace today.

1. Don’t be afraid. Despite working in hostile territory, Joseph never let anxiety about offending his boss or losing his job rule him. Instead, he chose to fear only God. Psalm 34:9 reminds us that “those who fear him will have all they need.”

Conversely, if you’re governed by other people’s opinions, you may get sucked into the undertow of bad workplace policies and behaviors, rather than finding constructive ways to effect change. Yet if you’re motivated only by your desire to honor the Lord, people will take notice. Even Pharaoh, the most powerful man in Egypt, said of Joseph: “Can we find anyone else like this man so obviously filled with the spirit of God?” (Gen. 41:38).

2. Tell the truth. When Joseph warned Pharaoh of the horrible famine God revealed would soon ravage Egypt, he didn’t soft-pedal the truth. In today’s dire economy, Joseph’s circumstances remind us to speak up clearly and with courage. Even when dealing with a bullying supervisor, by choosing the right time and positive words, you can honestly confront a problem. Try communicating, “I want to give you my best, and your specific, constructive feedback will help me contribute in the most effective way I can.” Allow the Holy Spirit to direct your words, and be confident in what He leads you to do and say.

3. Work for God. Potiphar, Joseph’s first boss, recognized that “the Lord was with Joseph, so he succeeded in everything he did as he served” (Gen. 39:2). Why? Joseph worked for God. So Potiphar put him in charge of his household “and everything he owned” (Gen. 39:6), hoping to reap blessings too. Coworkers may not realize why you’re so wholehearted, but God honors efforts that are focused on pleasing Him. And His presence will naturally spill over to affect the people nearby.

4. Do the right thing. When Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce Joseph, he rejected her outright. “My master trusts me,” he said, pointing out what her lack of ethics threatened. “How could I do such a wicked thing? It would be a great sin against God” (Gen. 39:8-9). The principle? Always choose right, even when nobody’s watching. Then take action to strengthen yourself. Start each workday in prayer, asking the Holy Spirit to guide you—for His honor and glory.

5. Flee evil. If a work situation offers no alternative but to compromise your values, leave! Joseph fled from Potiphar’s house, literally running away from his boss’s promiscuous wife. Corporate scandals, Internet porn, and workplace temptations are prevalent today, and you may feel compelled to stay in a job where sin reigns. But don’t yield to the pressure—not even to keep your benefits or pay the bills. It’s simply not worth the real cost. Look for another placement elsewhere; God has something better for you.

6. Know your strengths. When the false accusation by Potiphar’s wife landed him in jail, Joseph chose to make the best of it and glorified God by working diligently. As a result, the warden put him in charge of the whole prison (Gen. 39:22). So even if your workplace makes you feel like an inmate, bring your A-game anyway.

Use your gifts and abilities to benefit others in any way possible—even beyond the scope of your official duties. At some point others are likely to take notice, which will increase your opportunities for further influence. Your purpose in the place God has called you to serve goes far beyond fulfilling basic responsibilities.

7. Give the Lord credit. Joseph didn’t boast about his gifts. When the occasion arose, He gave credit to God in a natural way. When his fellow prisoners—Pharaoh’s chief cupbearer and baker—were distressed by their dreams, Joseph showed genuine concern and made sure he pointed them toward his source of help. “Interpreting dreams is God’s business,” he assured them (Gen. 40:8).

Does this mean you can talk about God at work? Yes! However, that is not to suggest you drop evangelistic tracts on your supervisor’s desk or strong-arm coworkers into going to church. But authenticity, humility, and openness about God’s involvement in your daily life can go a long way. Pray for opportunities to share, and “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15 NIV).

8. Be patient. Joseph was in prison two long years before his hard, faithful work was rewarded (Gen. 41:1). By then, Pharaoh’s chief baker had been killed and the cupbearer had forgotten his promise to put in a good word for Joseph (Gen. 40:23). But when Pharaoh desperately sought someone to interpret his dreams, Joseph finally got the call (Gen. 41:9-14). Not only did this end his wrongful incarceration, but he was also given an incredible opportunity far bigger than the young Hebrew could ever have imagined.

Through Joseph’s years of service and endurance, the Lord had prepared him to lead a nation and save it from tragedy. If you’ve been called to stay in a demoralizing job, your own delivery probably won’t happen overnight. Determine to be diligent anyway, and pray for the perseverance you need. God’s purposes are at work!

9. Prayerfully offer wise solutions to problems. Joseph accurately forecast a devastating famine “so severe that even the memory of the good years will be erased” (Gen. 41:31). Yet, instead of getting caught up in the magnitude of the crisis, he sought wisdom from the Lord and offered Pharaoh a smart plan: to save and store one-fifth of all harvests during the plentiful years in preparation for the coming shortage, and appoint a wise person to supervise the endeavor efficiently. Notice that Joseph didn’t ask for this assignment. But because he’d shown himself capable and trustworthy, Pharaoh put him in charge of all Egypt (Gen. 41:37-40). God’s favor went far beyond the freedom he’d longed for.

10. Glorify God. In his fancy new job, Joseph didn’t forget that the Lord was still the source of all good things. In fact, when he married and had children, he named his first son Manasseh (“making to forget”) to honor God’s redemption of his years of suffering (Gen. 41:51). Then he named his second son Ephraim (“fruitfulness”), acknowledging that “God has made me fruitful in this land of my grief”(Gen. 41:52). Joseph’s life exemplifies what it means to put the Lord first in both good times and bad.

11. Take a break and honor your priorities. Even though Joseph’s job had endless demands, he knew he also had to take his father’s body home for burial. So he sought permission to travel to Canaan (Gen. 50:4-6). It’s easy to get caught up in your responsibilities at work and think everything will fall apart in your absence. But when you need a break for your own rejuvenation or to enjoy the family, take time off. Rest is godly, and everybody needs it.

12. Forgive. The capstone of Joseph’s illustrious life wasn’t saving Egypt but, rather, his ongoing choice to forgive his brothers for selling him into slavery. “Am I God that I can punish you?” he asked them—even though he had the power to withhold mercy and make them suffer for their wrongdoing. “You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good” (Gen. 50:19-20). Likewise, instead of harboring bitterness or the desire to get even, forgive those who have hurt you. And stop to consider how the Lord might be using someone’s negative actions toward you for good.

The Bottom Line? Our witness at work isn’t about pressuring people to accept Christ, while we endure the job itself as a necessary evil. Instead, we should let our work be our worship. As we practice diligence, love, and integrity, we bear witness to God’s presence and goodness by way of the most powerful kind of sermon: action. Don’t be surprised when that transforms a workplace which seems very far from God’s reach.

* All scriptures are from the New Living Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

Patricia Raybon is the author of I Told the Mountain to Move: Learning to Pray So Things Change.

Copyright 2014 In Touch Ministries, Inc. All rights reserved. www.intouch.org. In Touch grants permission to print for personal use only.


20 comments
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  • March 24, 2014 07:23 PM

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    This was a blessing!!! Work as unto The Lord on the job.
  • March 23, 2014 01:52 PM

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    Just what I needed today. Thank you!
  • March 20, 2014 11:04 AM

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    This was so encouraging! I've been re-reading it and sharing it with others at work who are believers.
    I have to share...
    Awhile back I was struggling with a lady at work. It seemed as if no matter what I did...she just did not like me.
    I prayed about it...cried out to God about it...
    Then one day I felt the LORD ( Abba ) speak to me through one of your messages via radio.
    And, I believe, He said to look for ways to serve her...
    So, I did just that.
    One day we were working together and she left her dirty make up brushes and supplies behind, so while she was helping a customer I began to clean them for her...to my delight, I was so full of JOY!
    As I continued...she walked up and said, "You don't have to do that"...I replied, " I want to "
    It took a little time but she warmed up to me little by little.
    Amen!
  • March 06, 2014 09:54 AM

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    Amen1
  • March 06, 2013 12:58 AM

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    Thank You Jesus! You always know just what I need to hear, and when I need to hear it! Thank you Dr. Stanley for all of your sermons, and for helping my husband and I understand Gods Word more clearly.
    This was a great article. I am printing it, so I can share it with a few of my co-workers that are struggling like me at work.
  • February 13, 2013 05:27 AM

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    This article has shed light on my person shortcomings when working in a hostile Work environment. I'll admit itd easy tl get caught up if you give morr honor to man then to God. The article has renewed my thinking and my understanding that i am a servant of The most high. Therefore, moving forward i will pray at all times and perform my resposibilities with integrity into God. In my life anger and unforgiveness is no longer an option.
  • January 21, 2013 02:45 PM

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    great practical "hands on" teaching that is informative and helpful as I am sure there are many people who can relate to difficult situations at work. God is in control and we must put our trust in him.
  • January 11, 2012 03:29 PM

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    This was for me thank you Jesus. I am in a difficult situation at work but I am waiting on the circumstances to change in my favor.
  • July 12, 2011 09:05 AM

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    God always send you what you need when you need it. This article spoke to me directly, God is always in control
  • June 15, 2011 01:34 PM

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    It is God's will that we are respectful and glorify Him in every step of the day, 8-10 hours of the day are at work........therefore we are responsible for giving God honor and glory in all we do.
  • April 24, 2011 01:17 PM

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    i personally love it ! as i read through this article, i felt as though the words were speaking directley to me ! i try to make sure that every morning when i rise that i give thanks to the Lord for allowing me to see another day and to also give me the strength to deal with the things that i face every day on the job.
  • March 30, 2011 12:19 PM

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    I kept thinking I'll read that article... Never got it read... Until today... I needed it so. Thank you Lord!
  • March 29, 2011 01:19 PM

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    I have been going through a tough time at work. I have worked for this organization for years and I accepted a position far from my family support system. I don't know if it is the economy or the management I am now under after the move, but it has been an interesting rollercoaster. I was a new mother, in a new city, and a new job (same company). My husband and I moved and it seemed that right from the start things were a disaster with this job and have been for the last 3 years. I have had to justify my work, defend my position, and fight each week, if not everyday, the politics of the organization. I recently realized the toll it has taken on my home life and my christain walk. I confess that I have wanted and tried to get even, to set the record straight, and to fight a battle that in the end is God's (this took me sometime to figure out....Trust). Often I would pray "God don't you see this happening, why can't I get any respect around here!" I am learning to cope but it has been difficult. This article, has shead enormous light on my work situation. I feel like that the circumstances have brought out the very worst in me and the parallel of Joseph is one that I will heed. Not once did Joseph seem bitter or angry. ...which is what I feel I have become or was. He took the let downs with trust and reverance to God. Thank you for this article. Thank you for be a vessel to be used for God and my testimony. Peace
  • March 23, 2011 05:24 PM

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    Great reminder, of who we are in Christ, and who lives inside of us. Jesus promised Us peace in the midst of the storm, not peace without the storm.
  • March 10, 2011 03:19 AM

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    thanks for the heartwarming and encouraging messages
  • March 09, 2011 10:04 PM

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    Great article, must read
  • March 06, 2011 10:08 AM

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    I can see why things have happened to me in my place of work by reading this passage. I have been enlightened as to why I have forgiven people who have tried to do me wrong, why I go beyond the call of duty. I have often wondered why I keep doing this job? I go to work praying and I am praying all through the day and yet folks ask me how I can handle so much with such a calm spirit. I see now it is because I am praying my way through the day and giving it all to God with out realizing what I have been doing . I thank God for my job and people I work with . Sometimes it gets very trying but I know the out come is going to be to the Glory of God.
  • March 02, 2011 04:04 PM

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    Absolutely wonderful article! Truly applicable to what I'm experiencing now on my job. I am committed to applying ALL of these twelve principles. My work will be my worship!
  • March 02, 2011 12:05 PM

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    This as shown me to be more patient and more understanding of myself and others.
  • March 01, 2011 01:23 PM

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    I love the way you love God, Pastor Stanley. This message I needed today.

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